New MacBook Air CPU is Finally Exposed

Posted on October 31, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Mac and macOS with 15 Comments

Intel has finally come clean on the microprocessor that Apple is using in the new MacBook Air. There’s some good news and some bad news.

Speculation about the processor started at the exact moment in yesterday’s press event that Apple stated the part was, vaguely, “a dual-core Intel Core processor.” This strongly suggested it was a Y-series part, which is aimed at thin, light, silent/fanless, and generally underpowered low-end PCs. (Or what used to be called a Core M chip.) And not a modern, 8th-generation U-series ore processor like we see in real PCs. As those utilize quad-core designs now.

So the speculation began. As always, I rely on the microprocessor experts at Anandtech to sort through this kind of mess. And sure enough, that publication speculated that the MacBook Air processor—which runs at 1.6 GHz with short 3.6 GHz Turbo boosts—and was unlisted on Intel’s website was a new Y-series part.

They were correct. Since that article posted, Intel has updated its website to include information about the chip, which is officially named the Intel Core i5-8210Y Processor. It’s a 14 nm design—cough, Intel—but it runs at a low 7-watts of power, making it much efficient but less powerful than standard U-series parts.

And that’s the interesting bit, I think. Most Y-series processors run at 5-watts. So it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that Intel tweaked its Y-series processor lineup specifically for the unique thermal requirements of the new MacBook Air. That is, instead of being saddled by the mostly sad 5-watt parts that we see in low-end PCs, the MacBook Air uses a slightly less anemic 7-watt design. That hopefully still provides for silent and fanless operation. (I’m surprised Apple never mentioned this at its event.)

The Core i5-8210Y supports up to 16 GB of RAM, which is a reasonable limit for a MacBook Air-class PC. And it ships with an Intel UHD Graphics 617 graphics processing unit that can output 4K and 60 Hz. Also, it’s an Amber Lake generation chipset, which means it’s new as of August and not a year-old design or whatever.

Very eager to see benchmarks and real-world experiences.


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